Inside Move: Yo, ‘Mama’

Feisty foreign-lingo pic turns up niche heat

Selling U.S. audiences on foreign-language films isn’t easy. Nor is finding theaters that’ll run unrated, sexually explicit fare.

So why do backers think “Y Tu Mama Tambien” — an unrated, sexually explicit, foreign-language film — will win over uptight, subtitle-averse America?

For one thing, in Los Angeles, where the film debuted March 15 on a whopping 40 screens, Spanish isn’t foreign to the area’s millions of Latinos.

“When you talk about a foreign language, you can’t say that for this film,” says Bob Berney, IFC Films’ senior veepee of marketing and distribution.

The film also is opening in San Diego and New York, adding 15 more markets April 6.

“It’s a hip, fun, cool, young movie,” says Michael Williams, publicity and promo director for arthouse circuit Landmark Theaters. “These don’t come around that often.”

IFC and Landmark are trying to create a stir, with contests and soundtrack promotions, Spanish- and English-language campaigns, even posting fliers in Mexican restaurants.

“We’re breaking all sorts of rules,” says Berney. “You couldn’t do that with just any film.”

“Y Tu” follows two Mexico City students and an older woman on a road trip. Between teen gross-out jokes and sexual escapades are serious asides about Mexico’s social challenges. It’s an often-dazzling mix of low humor and high art.

“After Venice (film festival), it was clear how universal the themes were,” says helmer Alfonso Cuaron.

The sex, of course, will help sell the film. Though it’s explicit, it’s played for laughs.

“I felt like the film, though it’s pushing it a bit, there’s been stuff like this in ‘American Pie,’ ” Berney says.

And “Y Tu” backers point to “Amores Perros,” which grossed $5 million in the U.S., as reason for optimism.

Indeed, Berney thinks “Amores” and “Y Tu” could help reshape the marketplace.

“A lot of Mexican films have really been marginalized here,” Berney says. “If this works, it’ll open the door for a lot of other films.”

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